05/01/12 11:13pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN THE BULLDOZERS HEAD FOR SHARPSTOWN “. . . The Heights used to be pretty shady too. Times change. Neighborhoods change. Sharpstown’s day in the sun is coming, but it’s still a ways off. It’s not hard to look at the wave of redevelopment that has poured out from the center of Houston and realize Sharpstown is the path of growth. Back in the 80′s West U houses were being bulldozed by the dozen. Soon lots of folks were priced out of West U and the bulldozers turned to Bellaire. Now they are turning south all the way to the South Loop. Meyerland is in play too. Right now the primary western barrier is the edge of the Bellaire HS zoning map. As Meyerland continues to improve though, the childless pioneers who don’t care about school zones will be the first to start the gentrification process in Sharpstown. Eventually . . . critical mass. If the neighborhood associations were smart, they’d start their own tax district and ear mark all the proceeds for demolition of the junkiest properties. Demo some junk. Demo some more junk. Hold the land as it appreciates. Sell it to a developer who has a plan to build that you like (not just the highest bidder). Pour the land sale money into more demolition. Rinse. Repeat.” [Bernard, commenting on Headlines: Selling the Astrodome in Pieces; Felix Mexican Restaurant Sign Mystery]

09/12/11 12:55pm

ST. AGNES PICKS UP DROPPED SUIT The lawsuit the Academy of St. Agnes filed and then dropped last month against the city, the TABC, and the owners of a nightclub planning to open in the former Finger Furniture space at PlazAmericas is back on again, Purva Patel reports. The suit is an attempt to prevent the planned club, El Corral, from receiving a liquor license. A year ago, the private girls school bought the 18.7-acre former Gillman auto dealership at the corner of Bellaire Blvd. and Fondren, across the street from the former Sharpstown Mall, with plans to turn the property into an athletic campus. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

08/10/11 3:15pm

ST. AGNES DROPS SUIT St. Agnes Academy has officially ended its lawsuit meant to prevent a nightclub called El Corral — planned for the former Finger Furniture store in PlazAmericas — from receiving a liquor license. The suit was filed last Friday against the nightclub’s owners, the city of Houston, and the TABC. A spokesperson for the all-girls private school, which is building an athletic facility across Bellaire Blvd. from the former Sharpstown Mall, tells Swamplot “any future plans regarding the suit are to be determined,” but offered no further comments. [Previously on Swamplot]

08/09/11 12:40pm

St. Agnes Academy has already begun constructing an athletic complex on the site of the former Gillman Auto dealership at the corner of Bellaire and Fondren in Sharpstown. The 18.7-acre property, which it bought last fall, will have 3 athletic fields, 2 softball diamonds, 8 tennis courts, plus weight rooms, conference rooms, and meeting rooms. But administrators of the all-girls private school aren’t too happy with a development planned across the street in PlazAmericas, the former Sharpstown Mall. Last Friday, the school filed suit to prevent a nightclub from opening in the mall’s former Finger Furniture store.


11/12/10 5:44pm

Spun around 180 degrees on its site yesterday: the 1,304 sq.-ft. Ranch house at 6513 Sharpview, before a small crowd gathered at Bayland Park next door and an online audience following the live-streaming cameras mounted to the long-vacant 1960 structure. Conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll‘s big house-twisting exercise was 10 years in the making. A reader sends in this report from the muddy field:

I missed the talks . . . but was there from about 11:30 ’till when they finished for the day at 2:30. What happened was they backed the house off the site, turned it perpendicular onto Sharpcrest, and then there was this great moment when the house was moving laterally along the street, and then they backed it in towards us (we were at the back of the lot, on the lot line that faces Bayland Park).

. . . The group seemed about evenly divided between architecture folks, including at one point Rice Architecture dean Sarah Whiting, art crowd types (Molly Gochman, Arturo Palacios), and the many friends MEC has made during her time in Houston due to her being such a nice person. A healthy handful of neighbors milled about, including this woman who stood on her roof with a cup of coffee, who at one point went inside and got an umbrella when it started raining.

Our correspondent also apparently missed some very hot Mexican food: Hometta blogger Jenny Staff Johnson reports a taco truck hired to cater the event caught on fire.


08/25/10 1:55pm

Here they are: the latest views from the scene on Fondren just north of Harwin, where cleaning chemicals and hair sprays likely accelerated an early-morning strip-center blaze. The exploding cans were locked inside M Trading Company, a wholesale business that supplies local dollar stores, at 5710 Fondren. Also consumed by flames: Jessie’s Hair Salon, and the better portion of blossoms in Floreria Lee. A&C Tires and Star Karaoke appear to have made it through mostly unharmed.

A closer look at Greater Sharpstown’s latest strip-center-arcade fire:


07/29/10 11:58am

CAN’T EVICT THEM BEFORE THEY LEAVE District F city council member Al Hoang failed in his bid yesterday to have a justice of the peace evict an organization calling itself Vietnamese Community Services from the Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinities building across the street from Plazamericas in Sharpstown. In a hearing the Chronicle‘s Moises Mendoza describes as “bizarre,” Hoang told Judge Russ Ridgway the Vietnamese Community Services name sounds too much like that of the building’s owners, and that the result was “too confusing.” Hoang is a former president of the Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinities, which also goes by the acronym VNCH. In May, he helped the organization win city council approval of a $400,000 community development block grant — to renovate the VNCH building. “Although Vietnamese Community Services has been in the building for 18 months, Hoang said he only recently discovered it’s not calling itself Vietnamese Elders Association, as he believed it had been since the group first moved into the building at 7100 Clarewood Drive. Vietnamese Community Services offers hot meals and English classes, among other things, to elderly community members. Hoang has been demanding that Vietnamese Community Services change its name or move elsewhere for the last few months, but the executive director of the organization refuses to do that.” Earlier this week, that organization’s executive director, Kim Nguyen, told Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg that her group had already planned to move to a new location next month, so that the building could be renovated. [Houston Chronicle; Falkenberg column]

05/10/10 5:45pm

University of Houston architecture professor Susan Rogers explores the Bellaire-Holcombe corridor from Highway 6 to the Med Center and finds a donut in her path.

For each census tract that intersects Holcombe or Bellaire Blvd., Rogers tallied the total number of residents born outside the United States and those residents’ country of origin, using 2000 Census data. The results surprised her:

Most of the action is in the zone between the Loop and the Beltway. “The diversity drops steeply inside 610,” she notes:

I had graphed the street from just 610 to Hwy. 6 for a talk on the links between Asia and Houston and then decided to add the rest as a potential “contrast” – what I found when I completed it absolutely astounded me – the absolute drop is so stark – and of course the income graph is nearly the exact opposite . . .

That graph showing median household income in the same census tracts:


01/19/10 1:31pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AND THE NEXT NEW HOT SPOT WILL BE UNCLE JOE’S CLUB ON HILLCROFT “. . . My problem is that it is getting harder and harder to find places that are ‘unbeautiful.’ I want a bar, not a drinking experience. It’s not a hard formula: old building + inexpensive spiritsinterior design planning = bar. I guess I’ll just have to stick to Uncle Joe’s and stay away from downtown altogether from now on.” [Brad, commenting on Leon’s Lounge Takes a Turnover Break]

10/07/09 4:57pm

A reader reports that the long-shuttered and fallow former Target store on the northbound 59 feeder just north of Bellaire Blvd. (and across the freeway from the Sharpstown Mall) will finally be used for something productive — though it’s “probably not the kind of use the Greater Sharpstown Management District had in mind.” What’s that?

The new owner, Golden Sharpstown Inc, is reportedly in the process of turning the 160,000 square foot building into the new home of Texas Jasmine, “the leading wholesaler for C-Store Owners.” (That’s Convenience Store, for the uninitiated.) Texas Jasmine is out of space at their old location [at 7800 Harwin near Fondren, pictured above], and does a thriving business supplying gas stations and convenience stores throughout Houston with everything from dill pickles-in-a-bag to pipe tobacco.

Well, who doesn’t need a dill pickle in a bag now and then? How convenient for the convenience-store owners, no?

Sure, says our tipster, but:


09/23/09 9:43am

WHEN BURGLAR BARS KILL Additional obstacle in last night’s fire at the Copperwood Townhomes, on Imogene St. at the northern edge of the Westwood Golf Club: “The burglar bars ‘slowed us down a little bit getting in,’ said HFD District Chief Tommy Dowdy. ‘If (the occupants) tried to get out through the window, it would have been a deterrent.’ Firefighters discovered the man’s body in a ground-floor apartment.” [Houston Chronicle]

08/26/09 12:40pm

REDEVELOPMENT BRAWL AT THE SHARPSTOWN MALL Developer and former Sugar Land mayor David Wallace now says his firm’s $350 million proposal to redevelop the Sharpstown Mall — approved in early July by the Southwest Houston TIRZ over the objections of the mall’s owner and manager — isn’t likely to happen: “R.D. Tanner, a partner in the firm, resigned from the TIRZ board the day his company [Wallace Bajjali Development Partners] submitted its vision for the mall. The board voted to support his firm’s bid that same day. The board is tasked with overseeing the site’s redevelopment and distributing up to $20 million of public money to assist in that effort. The mall’s owner and manager — whose own redevelopment plan was rejected by the authority in May — filed suit last week, alleging that Tanner and the TIRZ board’s subsequent requests for information were “a subterfuge” to obtain “confidential, proprietary information” they could use to make their own bid. The allegations highlight a widespread problem in Houston: that developers on TIRZ boards are often able to make decisions about tax abatements — and the use of public dollars for economic development — that ultimately benefit themselves or their projects, according to Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, an advocacy organization that promotes openness and accountability in government.” [Houston Chronicle]